The police had slashed our tents; thrown away clothes, food, medical supplies; and arrested the protesters and the reinforcements that were ready to replace us. The police had thrown noxious chemicals and burning gas at us and shot us with rubber bullets. The police had showed their might and erected a flimsy fence to reinforce it. And as they were lying to the media about who did what and when, this sign went up.
Though their numbers had dwindled after Tuesday night’s police brutality, this sign captured the sentiment. The remaining occupiers stood in the street with a banner. They thanked me for coming. Everyone was angry. No one was daunted.
That was on Tuesday. By Wednesday at six the fences were torn down and the camp reestablished. Enough food was donated to feed everyone. A day later there was a library, school tent, and an agreement to have a general strike. My friend got six medical volunteers in a three-hour shift. Not hobos, not teenagers—People who know how to insert a catheter. Constantly there were meetings.
I have never in my life seen such a group of people so diverse, so motivated, so organized and so relentlessly determined. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, we are not quitting. We have been waiting. The time is now.
I say “us” and “we” though it’s unfair to say for I’m not among the campers. My tent wasn’t shredded. My laptop wasn’t “confiscated.” I didn’t have to sleep on the floor in a jail.
I say “us” because Occupy Oakland knows that the movement is much bigger than the campers. It is the farmers who provide the food, the bloggers and publicists who share the news, the artists who make the t-shirts and photos, the designers and developers who build the website, the thousands who clashed with police on Tuesday. The campers represent us. They are our proxies.
Politicians count active constituents as representative of larger numbers of lazy voters. One email counts for a handful of miffed voters, a letter even more, a phone call counts for many, and you can bet if people are sleeping on your fucking lawn you can count on a crowd with torches and forks.
The campers sit for me. Tomorrow I stand for the protesters. Tomorrow there is no work. Tomorrow there is no shopping. Tomorrow, I strike.